Lounging poolside or lakeside, playing at the beach or in the park -- let's face it, whatever you're doing outside between May and September feels oh-so-good on your skin in the summer sun. But extra daylight and arms-baring temperatures make this time of year a super-stressor on your skin. All that sun and heat "means you have to get your warrior paint on," says David Colbert, MD, founder of New York Dermatology Group. "People tend to subject their skin to more damage in warm weather."
So how can you enjoy the outdoor season and still prevent long-term wear and tear on your face and body -- all the way to Labor Day and beyond?
Read on for the lowdown on sunscreens for even the fussiest complexions, products to soothe redness and irritation, tips on fighting heat-induced breakouts, and more.
Six essential tools for summer skin care
The sun's rays cause about 90% of injury to the skin, which means sagging, wrinkles, uneven pigmentation, thickening, and general signs of aging, Colbert explains. Short of walking around in outfits that even Hester Prynne would find conservative (which works -- clothing is a good first line of defense against the sun's rays), there's not much you can do to completely protect yourself from the scarlet letter of UV damage. But certain products and ingredients have proven to be reparative and have protective qualities. To get through the summer with healthy, glowing skin, stock your skin care arsenal with these powerful, protective weapons.
1. Daily Sun Protection
If we all did what we're supposed to do, we'd start working on our taxes in January, change the oil every 3,000 miles, and wear sunscreen 365 days of the year. But human nature means there are long lines at the post office on April 15, our car engines die untimely deaths, and most of us carry a bottle of sunscreen only when we're at the beach. So hear this: The first rule of beautiful, healthy skin begins and ends with sunscreen. The proven No. 1 way to protect your skin is to wear UV protection every single day, rain or shine, summer or winter, Colbert says. If you're still one of the nonuser abusers see our "Why we skip sunscreen" below.
Top daily sun protection product picks include:
• Eucerin Everyday Protection Face Lotion SPF 30 ($8.99/4 oz)
• Olay Complete All Day UV Defense Moisture Lotion ($10.99/6 oz)
• Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 15 ($11.49/4 oz)
2. Salicylic Acid Cleanser
Your cleanser can actually do more than just clean. When you wash your face with salicylic acid, a gentle exfoliator, you're treating past, present, and future skin issues. "Salicylic acid loosens dead skin cells so new ones replace them," Colbert says. "This turnover helps shed damage." Plus, ditching dead skin cells keeps your complexion clear and dries up excess oil to help prevent breakouts, he adds. One caution: Salicylic acid can make you more sensitive to the sun, so use it only at night.